6 Tips on Surviving 1L Year

You’ve made it to law school. Congratulations! You are on your way to one of the most challenging but exciting academic journeys that you could imagine.

Obviously attending class, outlining, and studying are critical to your 1L year. But there is a lot more to 1L year success than just studying. It’s important to step back and ensure you are living a life that enables your success.

This article provides some tips to help you make it through 1L year – and beyond.

Sleep.

It’s an old lesson, but absolutely true for your 1L year. Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Do your best to consistently sleep that much your entire 1L year: have a consistent bedtime, maybe 11pm, and a consistent wake-up time, maybe 7am. If your mind and body are consistently well rested, you are more likely to really show up to class and study effectively each day, with your mind fresh and nimble enough to grasp torts, contracts, civil procedure and property law. During final exam time, you may not have time to get quite as much sleep, but do your best to still get 7-8 hours per night.

Don’t drink too much.

Alcohol seems to be everywhere in law school: at 1L orientation events and at social engagements throughout the year. It’s important to let yourself have fun, but alcohol can also become a serious obstacle if you don’t keep your drinking in check. If you are a drinker, limit yourself to 2-3 drinks, 2-3 nights per week, maximum. Avoid alcohol entirely during final exam period. The same idea applies to any other substances you may enjoy. Learning to drink moderately during your 1L year will also come in handy as you advance in your career: it’s no secret that alcohol abuse is a problem among attorneys, too.

Exercise.

Build in time to exercise throughout the week. Maybe it’s just a 30 minute walk from the law library back home after you finish writing outlines for the day. Maybe it’s jogging at the gym 2 or 3 times a week. Or maybe yoga is your jam. Whatever you like best in terms of exercise, be sure to build that into your schedule. Physical activity, like sleep, contributes to your ability to really show up in class and study more effectively. Exercise can also help combat stress and anxiety, which are inevitable to your 1L year experience.

Make time for mental health.

1L year can feel scary, stressful and highly competitive. You may not always feel like you know what you’re doing, and the socratic method in class can feel incredibly scary depending on the professor and the course. To manage these emotions, there are steps you can take. If you see a therapist, you may want to keep that therapist available during your 1L year. Schedule weekly appointments with your therapist to talk through your emotions. If you don’t have a therapist nearby yet, consider finding one. Many campuses have counseling centers available, or campus health clinics could refer you to a therapist. A handful of visits with a therapist might be free as part of your student health insurance. Check it out and leverage resources available.

Don’t obsess over how your classmates are studying.

Everyone absorbs information differently. You know yourself better than anyone else. In general, do your best to do all the assigned reading and pay attention in each class. Then, review your notes and outlines for each class on a regular basis – some law students go to the law library every day after class, not just to read for the next day, but to review their notes and outline. But some law students review the week’s materials once a week. There’s no secret or magic trick to the academic aspects of 1L year: nothing really beats good, old fashioned studying.

Breathe.

1L year is obviously very important – we all know that. But your overall health and happiness are much more important. Acing your 1L year doesn’t mean you’ve “made it” as a lawyer. By the same token, a couple of bad grades during your 1L year won’t be the end of your career – far from it. Work hard, but give yourself a break, too.

You’ve made it far in life: only a tiny percentage of people on this planet get into law school. Give yourself kudos for making it this far! As you roll up your sleeves and open up your Torts book, keep these survival tips in mind.

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